India records the highest global daily cases of COVID-19 infections as the country’s healthcare system closes to collapse.
India, the world’s second-most populated country, is facing one of its worst healthcare challenges. Experts are predicting the country’s healthcare system will eventually collapse if the second wave continues to surge on. On Saturday, the health ministry in India reported 346,786 new cases of COVID-19; setting a new global record for daily coronavirus cases the third time in a row. Moreover, the Indian government estimates that an average of 1,600 people have died from coronavirus every day this past week.
Previously, in January, the US had held the world record of highest daily coronavirus cases.
At the start of the pandemic, India imposed strict lockdown measures to reduce the burden on its healthcare system. Soon the measures bore fruit, and in September the country began to see a decline in cases. However, by mid-February, the cases had started to rise again. Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a nationwide lockdown, his government refused to pause religious festivals or elections. Despite the rising cases and deaths, the Hindu Kumbh Mela festival continued to proceed without any social distancing or COVID-19 protocols. And on Wednesday more than 650,000 people bathed in the Ganges river as part of the religious procession.
Double-Mutant Variant Blamed for the Surge
Over the past week, several pictures showing a scene of utter hopelessness have emerged from India. Images of patients piled up outside hospitals, people begging for oxygen cylinders, and mass cremation sites are scattered across the internet. The sharp rise in cases has led to the filling up of ICUs, shortage of ventilators, and a severe shortage of Oxygen across the country. Furthermore, some hospitals in Delhi, one of the worst-hit Indian state, have completely run out of oxygen.
Experts are blaming the double-mutant variant for the surge in cases. The variant, which was discovered last month, spreads more easily and can also evade the immune system. However, the major blame falls on the government and their inability to implement proper measures. The huge crowds at religious festivals and election rallies are a major cause of the rise in cases. Furthermore, several states across India are also facing a vaccine shortage; despite the fact that India is a major vaccine producer. As a result, the country has diverted its international orders for domestic use. However, so far, less than 10% of the population has received the first of two doses of vaccines.
India has not yet implemented a national lockdown. However, many states have imposed their own restrictions to contain the spread.